A Japanese mayor apologized Monday for saying earlier this month that U.S. troops should patronize legal adult entertainment businesses as a way to reduce rapes and other assaults.
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto told an audience at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Tokyo that the remark was inappropriate and could be construed as an insult to U.S. forces and to the American people.
However, Hashimoto defended his statement made two weeks ago that the wartime practice of forcing Asian women - mostly Chinese and South Koreans - to work in brothels was necessary to maintain discipline and provide relaxation for soldiers.
He said he was quoted out of context to say he personally believed that the use of so-called "comfort women" was necessary.
Hashimoto says his remarks stem from concern about sexual assaults by U.S. military personnel on Japanese women in Okinawa where a large number of U.S. troops are based.
In a landmark 1993 statement, Japan offered "sincere apologies" for the "immeasurable pain and suffering" inflicted on comfort women. Two years later, Tokyo issued a broader apology expressing "deep remorse" for war suffering.
Historians say up to 200,000 women, mainly from the Korean Peninsula and China, were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers in military brothels during the Second World War.